Before we begin I would like to express my dissatisfaction with Thom, Foozie founder, for organising an event on a Wednesday night during Bake Off. Just who does he think he is?
Right. The important part…
Tucked off Gloucester Road on Nine Tree Hill (near the bottom, don’t panic), the Runcible Spoon has always been on my “when the parents visit” dinner list, or, as featured on A Life Less Organised by Shonette, the special date night list. The collaboration with Bristol Eats collective member Ah-Ma’s Dumplings had my tail wagging. Ah-Ma’s is one of my top street food choices in Bristol markets, particularly Love Food Fest at Paintworks.
A warm welcome with a psychopomp gin cocktail, aptly named “Gin Sum” (geddit?), started off the evening nicely with hints of fig and orange. I dutifully sipped whilst marvelling at the menu rustically scrawled on the blackboard, and felt extremely grateful I had resisted the call of the Jaffa cakes an hour or so before. It was a FEAST!
The starters came as a sharing plate, accompanied by soy and spring onion for dipping. Thank god there was two of each! Had I had to share with Thom, I would’ve definitely fought him for the second portion of steamy pork buns. My verdict? It was by far the highlight of my evening! The dough was light and fluffy, the pork fragrant and tender, and the miso caramel… the perfect touch of sweet and salty.
Next up was the duck dumplings! Chewy on the outside, soft on the inside, they were delicious! We also loved the venison spring rolls with mushrooms. They had a very particular earthy and savoury taste we couldn’t fault. The glazed pork chop skewers were also rather pleasant, although, a little gristly. Moving on to the next starter, we had high expectations. You’ll have to agree that honey and mustard glaze is a real classic but in an Asian inspired menu? Perhaps a little bit out of place. Finally, the mackerel sushi! WOW – it was beautiful. The delicate pickle and soy dip seasoned the oily fish nicely.
The main was definitely the most intriguing of all. Perhaps one of our favourite ways of eating, we got to cook our own seafood extravaganza! Now, who doesn’t love that! Given some advice on what sides suit which seafood best to start with, we were mainly left to our own devices. The more-than-capable portable gas stove had our pot of delicate fish and fennel broth bubbling in no time.
Chef hats donned, the mussels, mackerel and squid were added. followed by mushrooms and then noodles and greenery. I was pleased to hear the seafood was sourced from Cornwall (yay!), although the mussels were from Devon (boo!). I say this through teeth gritted with friendly rivalry; they were possibly some of the best I’ve had. Naturally, I’m going to put it down to the cooking. The broth was light and the fennel complemented the fish without being overpowering. However, I was a little disappointed by the lack of dumplings. It would have been great to have some little seafood dumplings to add to the broth as I’m less likely to make those at home and are where Ah-Ma’s strengths really lie.
The portion of broth was huge! But, SO good I had to resist polishing off a third! Plus, the desserts sounded too good to be true and there were THREE on offer! Three!!
Seriously chocolatey, the walnut brownie was decorated in a passionfruit mousse which gave the dish a nice sharpness. Surprisingly, it wasn’t at all overpowering! Although extremely delicious, it needs to be said that it was the peanut butter perched on top that won me over. I mean, obviously, I’m a PB fiend! So… no surprise there! All the elements together may have been too much in terms of flavours but they almost pulled off peanut butter and passionfruit. Bold.
The beetroot cake was a real contrast to the brownie as it was much less sweet and decadent. Although the presentation wasn’t as well executed as the others, the earthy flavour of beetroot really came through. The fromage blanc (think French Philadelphia) and vanilla mousse added creaminess, definitely a dessert for those who don’t have a huge sweet tooth.
I’m going to finish off with a bang because the matcha green tea mousse was sensational. If you’re unfamiliar with Matcha, let me enlighten you! It’s a powdered green tea grown under specific conditions to achieve that vibrant green colour spotted on health guru’s Instagram. The mousse had a beautiful texture and contrasted nicely with the crunchy “rice crispy” base. The real pleasure of this pud was the zesty lime jelly in the centre which had an exceptionally refreshing flavour. 100% would eat again, like right now. Truthfully, I would have been happiest with just a large one of these.